Rafael Trujillo’s Dominican Republic

Buy The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa
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“God looks with favor upon the physical elimination of the Beast if a people is freed thereby.” – Thomas Aquinas

The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa captures the period in the Dominican Republic under Rafael Trujillo, whose dictatorship is considered the bloodiest of the Americas. He seized power after a US occupation of the Dominican Republic that lasted almost a decade.

The Monroe Doctrine is the American policy that aimed to keep European powers out of the Western Hemisphere. The Dominican Republic had suffered serious fiscal problems and were indebted to a plethora of countries, which put them at risk of being occupied or re-colonized. The Roosevelt Corollary of the Monroe Doctrine advocated preemptive intervention in countries that were exposed to such risk. In the midst of their debt problems, the Dominican Republic’s president was assassinated and a factional war erupted among regional caudillos. Given the island’s proximity to American borders and its being so close to the newly-built Panama Canal, the US took control of the country in 1916. The gringos restored economic and political order, but the occupation was resented by Dominicans.

The Americans disbanded the Dominican army and began training a new military. Trujillo was among this new military, trained by US Marines, something he was very proud of, and he was promoted to General by American soldiers. The Americans left in 1924 and former president Horacio Vásquez was re-elected. He served one term before being ousted in 1930 by Trujillo, who ruled the country for over 30 years until his assassination in 1961.

The Feast of the Goat is historical fiction, so Vargas Llosa has considerable freedom to use his imagination. The main character, Urania, and her father who served in Trujillo’s inner circle, are both fictional. However, most other characters are real, and he used their real names. Vargas Llosa uses a narrative between Urania and her father to recount the times under Trujillo, and he says he tried to keep the novel as accurate as possible to his research. In fact, he claims he watered the torture scenes down because reality was too harsh for a novel.

Trujillo was different from most dictators in that he sided with the Americans. He always voted for their causes in the UN, he decried Communism, and he kept contacts in the Marines. The US wasn’t thrilled with Trujillo, but they tolerated him as better than Dominican chaos or another occupation. And when World War II came around, nobody had time to pay attention to human rights in the Caribbean. When the Cold War started, he was a welcome ally in a region vulnerable to Communism. But his atrocious human rights record eventually lost him the alliance with the United States.

Personality Cult

One worldwide characteristic of dictatorships is a personality cult – “mass media, propaganda, or other methods, to create an idealized and heroic public image.” Mao Tse Tung in China (which continues today, decades after his death), both Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il in North Korea, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Castro in Cuba, etc. Trujillo also created a godlike persona for himself.

He’s known informally among the people as The Goat. But in person he was referred to as Generalissimo, The Chief, the Benefactor, or His Excellency. The capital was renamed Ciudad Trujillo. It only returned to being called Santo Domingo after his death. The nation’s tallest mountain was renamed Pico Trujillo. Images and statues of Trujillo blanketed the country. Not only his name adorned parks, streets, and bridges, but also the names of his children, wife, and mother.

From the book:

[Y]ou’ve come to understand how so many millions of people, crushed by propaganda and lack of information, brutalized by indoctrination and isolation, deprived of free will and even curiosity by fear and the habit of servility and obsequiousness, could worship Trujillo. Not merely fear him but love him, as children eventually love authoritarian parents, convincing themselves that the whippings and beatings are for their own good. But what you’ve never understood is how the best-educated Dominicans, the intellectuals of the country, the lawyers, doctors, engineers, often graduates of very good universities in the United States or Europe, sensitive, cultivated men of experience, wide reading, ideas, presumably possessing a highly developed sense of the ridiculous, men of feeling and scruples, could allow themselves to be as savagely abused (they all were, at one time or another) as Don Froilán Arala was that night in Barahona.

Trujillo Legacy

Here’s a positive summary of the Trujillo regime:

They all thought the Goat was a savior of the Nation, the man who ended the caudillo wars, did away with the threat of a new invasion from Haiti, called a halt to a humiliating dependency on the United States – which controlled customs, prohibited a Dominican currency, and approved the budget – and, whether they were willing or not, brought the country’s best minds into the government. Compared to that, what did it matter if Trujillo fucked any woman he wanted? Or swallowed up factories, farms, and livestock? Wasn’t he increasing Dominican prosperity? Hadn’t he given this country the most powerful Armed Forces in the Caribbean?

Trujillo is most infamous for the Parsley Massacre, in which tens of thousands of Haitians were slaughtered by the Dominican army and police. The soldiers showed blacks in the region a sprig of parsley and demand they pronounce it. Haitians are native French speakers, and the French accent is obvious when trying to pronounce the Spanish ‘r’. So the Dominican soldiers would listen to random blacks pronounce ‘perejil‘, and if they didn’t seem native Spanish speakers, they were killed.

Trujillo’s fictional words from the book, defending the massacre:

“For the sake of this country, I have stained these with blood,” he stated, emphasizing each syllable. “To keep the blacks from colonizing us again. There were tens of thousands of them, and they were everywhere. If I hadn’t, the Dominican Republic would not exist today. The entire island would be Haiti, as it was in 1840. The handful of white survivors would be serving the blacks. That was my most difficult decision in thirty years of government …”

Here’s another, from one of his inner circle:

The Chief found a small country barbarized by wars among the caudillos, a country without law and order, impoverished, losing its identity, invaded by its starving, ferocious neighbors. They waded across the Masacre River and came to steal goods, animals, houses, they took the jobs of our agricultural workers, perverted our Catholic religion with their diabolical witchcraft, violated our women, ruined our Western, Hispanic culture, language, and customs, imposed their African savagery on us. The Chief cut the Gordian knot: “Enough!” Great ills demand great remedies! He not only justified the massacre of Haitians in 1937; he considered it a great accomplishment of the regime. Didn’t he save the Republic from being prostituted a second time by that marauding neighbor? What do five, ten, twenty thousand Haitians matter when it’s a question of saving an entire people?

Trujillo kept the entire nation afraid of him through the SIM, the country’s secret police, headed by Johnny Abbes. The SIM identified opposition leaders and revolutionaries and targeted them for arrest, torture, and assassination. The bodies were fed to sharks. On Colonel Johnny Abbes and the SIM:

The elimination of José Almoina was just one in the long series of brilliant operations carried out by the colonel, killing or maiming or severely wounding dozens of the most outspoken exiles in Cuba, Mexico, Guatemala, New York, Costa Rica, and Venezuela. Lightning-quick, clean pieces of work that impressed the Benefactor. Each one a small masterpiece in its skill and secrecy, the work of a watchmaker. Most of the time, in addition to killing off enemies, Abbes García arranged to ruin their reputations. The unionist Roberto Lamada, a refugee in Havana, died of a beating he received in a brothel in the Barrio Chino at the hands of hoodlums who filed a complaint against him with the police, charging him with attempting to stab a prostitute who refused to submit to the sadomasochistic perversions the exile had demanded; the woman, a tearful mulatta with dyed red hair, appeared in Carteles and Bohemia, displaying the wounds the degenerate had inflicted on her. The lawyer Bayardo Cipriota perished in Caracas in a homosexual dispute: he was found stabbed to death in a cheap hotel, wearing panties and a bra, with lipstick on his mouth. The forensic examination determined that he had sperm in his rectum.

Because everybody was deathly afraid of Trujillo and the SIM, he could do anything he wanted. He had sex with whichever woman he desired, even if she was married to other men of power. In the book, Urania witnesses Trujillo visiting the wife of one of the men in his inner circle, Don Froilán Arala, when he’s not home. This passage illustrates the mind games and abuses Trujillo subjected to even his most loyal men:

Don Froilán Arala, one of the Generalissimo’s right-hand men, delivered  a speech urging the Chief to declare not for the governorship but for what he still was in the hearts of the Dominican people: President of the Republic. Everyone thought Don Froilán was following the Chief’s instructions. Not so … Or at least … not so that night, for it might also be true that Don Froilán had done as the Chief ordered and the Chief changed his mind and decided to go on with the farce for a few more days. He would do that sometimes, even if it made his most talented collaborators look ridiculous. Don Froilán Arala’s head might display a pair of baroque horns, but it also boasted exceptional brains. The Chief penalized him for his hagiographic speech as he usually did: by humiliating him where it hurt most, in his honor as a man.

All of the local elite were at the reception given for the Chief by the leaders of the Dominican Party of Barahona … Suddenly, when it was very late, the Chief, feeling very good, before a huge audience composed exclusively of men – military from the local garrison, ministers, senators, and deputies who were accompanying him on the campaign tour, governors political leaders – exclaimed:

“I have been a well-loved man. A man who has held in his arms the most beautiful women in this country. They have given me the energy to go on. Without them, I never could have done what I did … Do you know which was the best of all the cunts I fucked? … Froilán’s wife!”

Don Froilán had smiled heroically, laughed, celebrated with the others the Chief’s witticism.

Don Froilán smiled and carried on, but knew it wasn’t just a joke.

In time Trujillo grew increasingly bold. Much of the book focuses on his final years, when he was most vulnerable and most murderous of opposition figures. The US had slowly been moving away from Trujillo, but the disappearance of a Spanish exile and American citizen finalized the split:

Jesús de Galíndez [was] one of the Spanish Republicans to whom Trujillo, in the kind of contradictory political operation that was his specialty, gave asylum in the Dominican Republic at the end of the [Spanish] Civil War … He had worked for the government in the State Department of Labor and at the School of Diplomacy, attached to Foreign Relations. In 1946 he left Ciudad Trujillo and settled in New York, where he began to help Dominican exiles and write against the Trujillo regime, which he knew from the inside.

In March 1956, Jesús de Galíndez, who had become an American citizen, disappeared after being seen, for the last time, coming out of a subway station on Broadway, in the heart of Manhattan. A few weeks earlier, publication had been announced of his book on Trujillo; he had submitted it as his doctoral dissertation at Columbia University, where he was already teaching. The disappearance of an obscure Spanish exile, in a city and a country where so many people disappeared, would have passed unnoticed, and no one would have paid attention to the outcry of Dominican exiles, if Galíndez had not been an American citizen and, above all, if he had not worked for the CIA, a fact that was revealed when the scandal broke. The powerful machinery that Trujillo had in the United States – journalists, congressmen, lobbyists, lawyers, and promoters – could not contain the explosion of indignation in the press, beginning with The New York Times, and among many representatives in Congress, at the possibility that a tinhorn Caribbean dictator would dare to abduct and murder an American citizen on American soil.

In the weeks and months that followed the disappearance of Galíndez, whose body was never found, the investigation by the press and the FBI unequivocally proved the regime’s complete responsibility.

That spelled the beginning of the end for Trujillo. But did he stop there? Did he lay low? No. To the contrary, he outdid himself. 1960 saw the murder of the Mirabal sisters, three women opposed to Trujillo’s dictatorship. They now grace the 200 Dominican pesos bill (left). That same year the SIM attempted to assassinate the democratically-elected Venezuelan president, Rómulo Betancourt, who had repeatedly denounced Trujillo’s dictatorship. The attempt on the Venezuelan president’s life turned the entire world against Trujillo.

“If I were a Dominican, which thank heaven I am not, I would favor destroying Trujillo as being the first necessary step in the salvation of my country and I would regard this, in fact, as my Christian duty.” – Henry Dearborn, CIA station chief in Dominican Republic

Trujillo’s Assassination

Aside from the narrative between Urania and her father, Vargas Llosa develops a side plot following Trujillo’s assassins – four career military men formerly loyal to Trujillo, but whom each had been irrevocably wronged.

Amado “Amadito” Garcia Guerrero was a young general who fell in love with a woman. As was required, he asked Trujillo’s permission to marry her. He was denied because the woman’s brother was assumed to be involved with Communists. After accepting the refusal, Amadito was required to execute the woman’s brother.

Antonio de la Maza wanted revenge for his brother, Octavio, a dedicated Trujillista pilot. “Tavito” had flown the drugged, masked Galíndez to where he was last seen. When the scandal broke in the US, Trujillo had to eliminate witnesses. Tavito was arrested. His corpse was then dumped in his own garden by the SIM, who told his wife he hung himself in jail.

Antonio Imbert, the only assassin who survived the ensuing crackdown, was governor of Puerto Plata during the 1949 invasion of Luperon by Dominican exiles. Imbert sent Trujillo a telegram saying “Give the order and I’ll burn Puerto Plata, Chief,” which Trujillo had published in all the newspapers, television, and radio news programs after the failed invasion. In his typical power plays, he granted amnesty to all the invaders and allowed them to return to exile. But behind closed doors he imprisoned and tortured Imbert and his brother, interrogating them to see if they were part of the plan.

Salvador “Turk” Estrella Sadhalá was a devout Catholic who long pondered how his serving Trujillo could be reconciled with his faith. Finally in 1960 the Church came out against Trujillo with a Pastoral Letter marking “a ‘shadow of sorrow’ … ‘We cannot remain oblivious to the deep suffering that afflicts so many Dominican homes.’ Like St. Peter, they wanted ‘to weep with those who weep’ … A quotation from Pius XII evoked the ‘millions of human beings who continue to live under oppression and tyranny’.” After that Pastoral Letter, Trujillo unleashed his media machine to disparage the foreign leaders of the Catholic Church. This was the last straw for Turk.

On May 30, 1961, these four men waited in a car along a highway waiting for Trujillo to pass en route to a tryst, then unloaded US-provided carbines on him and his driver, ending over three decades of Trujillismo.

Trujillo’s Sons

Typical of children with profane privilege, Trujillo’s sons were losers. Here’s the first, Ramfis, who ultimately succeeded his father, raping a Dominican girl of high society:

There are many versions of what happened. Ramfis met her at a party, saw her at the Country Club, at a festival, looked her way at the Hipódromo, and he besieged her, called, wrote, and made a date with her for that Friday afternoon, after the practice that Rosalía stayed for because she was on the school’s volleyball team. Many classmates see her when she leaves … and instead of taking the school bus she gets into Ramfis’s car, which is waiting for her a few meters from the door. He isn’t alone. Papa’s darling boy is never alone, he is always accompanied by two or three friends who celebrate him, adulate him, serve him, and prosper at his expense … Were they already drunk? Or do they get drunk while they do what they do to the golden, snow-white Rosalía Perdomo? Surely they don’t wait until the girl begins to bleed. Later they conduct themselves like gentlemen, but first they rape her. Ramfis, being who he is, must have been the one to deflower the exquisite morsel. Then comes everybody else. Do they go by age or by closeness to the firstborn? Do they gamble on the order? …

Instead of throwing her in a ditch somewhere in the countryside, which is what they would have done if instead of being a Perdomo, a white, blond, rich girl from a respected Trujillista family, Rosalía had been a girl with no name and no money, they behave with consideration. They take her to the door of Marión hospital, where, fortunately or unfortunately for Rosalía, the doctors save her. And also spread the story. They say poor Colonel Perdomo never recovers from the shock of knowing that Ramfis Trujillo and his friends happily violated his beloved daughter, between lunch and supper, as if they were killing time watching a movie. Her mother, devastated by shame and grief, never go out again. She isn’t even seen at Mass.

After the rape, Trujillo sent Ramfis to study in America:

To the Fort Leavenworth Military Academy in Kansas City, in 1958. To get him away from Ciudad Trujillo for a couple of years, because, they said, the story of Rosalía Perdomo had irritated even His Excellency … This idiotic boy, instead of becoming knowledgeable about affairs and preparing himself as the Chief’s firstborn, devoted his life to dissipation, to polo, to getting drunk with an entourage of bums and parasites and doing clever things like raping the daughter of one of the families most loyal to Trujillo and causing her to hemorrhage … Send him to the Fort Leavenworth Military Academy in Kansas City!

This little Dominican officer comes for an elite course of study in a select class of American officers and shows up with the rank of lieutenant general, dozens of medals, a long military career behind him (he had started at the age of seven), an entourage of aides-de-camp, musicians, and servants, a yacht anchored in San Francisco Bay, and a fleet of automobiles. What a surprise for all those captains, majors, lieutenants, sergeants, instructors, professors. He came to Fort Leavenworth to study, and the tropical bird displayed more medals and titles than Eisenhower ever had … How could they permit him to enjoy such prerogatives without discrediting the academy and the U.S. Army? Could they look the other way when every other week the heir apparent would escape spartan Kansas for boisterous Hollywood, where, with his friend Porfirio Rubirosa, he went on millionaire’s sprees with famous actresses, which the scandal sheets and gossip columns were thrilled to report? The most famous columnist in Los Angeles, Louella Parsons, revealed that Trujillo’s son gave a top-of-the-line Cadillac to Kim Novak and a mink coat to Zsa Zsa Gabor. At a session of the House of Representatives, a Democratic congressman estimated that those gifts cost the equivalent of the annual military aid that Washington graciously supplied to the Dominican Republic, and he asked if this was the best way to help poor countries defend themselves against Communism …

Impossible to avoid a scandal. In the Unites States, not in the Dominican Republic, where not a word was published or spoken about Ramfis’s diversions. But up there, say what you like, there is such a thing as public opinion and a free press, and politicians are crushed if they expose a weak flank. And so, at the request of Congress, military aid was cut off … The academy discreetly informed the State Department, which even more discreetly informed the Generalissimo that there wasn’t the remotest possibility that his boy would complete the course, and since his service record was so deficient, it was preferable for him to withdraw rather than suffer the humiliation of being expelled from the Fort Leavenworth Military Academy.

From that time on, after those excesses, the United States realized that this ally had become an embarrassment and it was prudent to find someone more presentable …

Here’s a video of Ramfis, after his father’s death, giving an interview to an American reporter. Despite all the time he spent in the States, he gives all his answers in Spanish:

From the very first question, you can see he’s no statesman, and way out of his league with this reporter.

And Ramfis was the smart one! Here’s what happened to the other brother:

The article was about the younger brother, the stupid, ugly Radhamés … Radhamés had lived, penniless, for some years in Panama, engaged in suspicious activities, nobody knew exactly what, until he vanished. The disappearance occurred the previous year, and none of the efforts of his relatives and the Panamanian police – his small room in Balboa was searched, and his meager belongings were still there – turned up any clues. Until, finally, one of the Colombian drug cartels let it be known in Bogotá, with the syntactical pomp characteristic of the Athens of America, that “the Dominican citizen Don Radhamés Trujillo Martínez, a resident of Balboa in our sister Republic of Panama, has been executed in an unnamed location in the Coolombian jungle after unequivocally demonstrating dishonorable conduct in the fulfillment of his obligations.” The New York Times reported that for years a derelict Radhamés had apparently earned his living serving the Colombian Mafia. Wretched work, no doubt, judging by the modest circumstances in which he lived: acting as a gofer for the bosses, renting apartments for them, driving them to hotels, airports, brothels, or, perhaps, acting as an intermediary for money laundering. Did he try to steal a few dollars to make his life a little better? Since he was so short on brains, they caught him right away. They abducted him to the forests of Darién, where they were lords and masters. Perhaps they tortured him with the same kind of ferocity used by him and Ramfis in 1959, when they tortured and killed the invaders of Constanza, Maimón, and Estero Hondo, and in 1961, when they tortured and killed the people involved in the events of May 30.

The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa gained notoriety for graphic depictions of torture. To illustrate the details he uses General José René “Pupo” Román, who was involved in the conspiracy to kill Trujillo but failed to order the military to arrest Abbes and Trujillo’s sons. Because of his failure to act the second part of the conspiracy – transferring the government to a civilian-military junta – failed and Trujillo’s family seized power. When they discovered Pupo’s role, he wasn’t spared:

In El Nueve, they stripped him and sat him on the black seat in the middle of a windowless, dimly lit room. The strong smell of excrement and urine nauseated him. The seat, misshapen and absurd with all its appendages, was bolted to the floor and had straps and rings for the ankles, wrists, chest, and head. Its arms were faced with copper sheets to facilitate the passage of the current. A bundle of wires came out of the Throne and led to a desk or counter, where the voltage was controlled. In the sickly light, as he was strapped into the chair, he recognized the bloodless face of Ramfis between Pechito León Estévez and Sánchez Rubirosa. He had shaved his mustache and was not wearing his eternal Ray-Ban sunglasses … Ramfis continued to look at him without saying anything, while a calié shaved him, and another, kneeling, bound his ankles, and a third sprayed perfume around the room…

Ramfis moved his head and Pupo felt himself thrown forward with the force of a cyclone. The jolt seemed to pound all his nerves, from his head to his feet. Straps and rings cut into his muscles, he saw balls of fire, sharp needles jabbed into his pores. He endured it without screaming, he only bellowed. Although with each discharge – they came one after the other, with intervals when they threw buckets of water at him to revive him – he passed out and could not see, he then returned to consciousness. And his nostrils filled with that perfume housemaids wore. He tried to maintain a certain composure, not humiliate himself by begging for mercy. In the nightmare he would never come out of, he was sure of two things: Johnny Abbes García never appeared among his torturers, and at one point somebody – it might have been Pechito León Estévez or General Tuntin Sánchez – let him know that Bibín’s reflexes were better than his because he had managed to fire a bullet into his mouth when the SIM came for him at his house on Arzobispo Nouel, corner of José Reyes. Pupo often wondered if his children, Álvaro and José René, whom he had never told about the conspiracy, had managed to kill themselves.

Between sessions in the electric chair, they dragged him, naked, to a damp cell, where buckets of pestilential water made him respond. To keep him from sleeping they taped the lids to his eyebrows with adhesive tape. When, in spite of having his eyes open, he fell into semi-consciousness, they woke him by beating him with baseball bats. At various times they stuffed inedible substances into his mouth; at times he detected excrement, and vomited. Then, in a rapid descent into sub-humanity, he could keep down what they gave him. In the early sessions with electricity, Ramfis interrogated him. He repeated the same question over and over again, to see if he would contradict himself. (“Is President Balaguer implicated?” He responded, making superhuman efforts to have his tongue obey him. Until he heard laughter, and then the colorless, rather feminine voice of Ramfis: “Shut up, Pupo. You have nothing to tell me. I know everything. Now you’re only paying for your betrayal of Papa.”

At the time of this last conversation with Ramfis, he could no longer see him. They had removed the tape, ripping off his eyebrows in the process, and a drunken, joyful voice announced: “Now you’ll have some dark, so you’ll sleep real good.” He felt the needle piercing his eyelids. He did not move while they sewed them shut. It surprised him that sealing his eyes with thread caused him less suffering than the shocks on the Throne. By then, he had failed in his two attempts to kill himself. The first time, he banged his head with all the strength he had left against the wall in his cell. He passed out, and barely bloodied his hair. The second time, he almost succeeded. Climbing up the bars – they had removed his handcuffs in preparation for another session on the Throne – he broke the bulb that lit the cell. On all fours, he swallowed every bit of glass, hoping that an internal hemorrhage would end his life. But the SIM had two doctors on permanent call and a small first-aid station supplied with what was necessary to prevent tortured prisoners from dying by their own hand. They took him to the infirmary, made him swallow a liquid that induced vomiting, and flushed out his intestines. They saved him, so that Ramfis and his friends could go on killing him in stages.

When they castrated him, the end was near. They did not cut off his testicles with a knife but used scissors, while he was on the Throne. He heard excited snickers and obscene remarks from individuals who were only voices and sharp odors of armpits and cheap tobacco. He did not give them the satisfaction of screaming. They stuffed his testicles into his mouth, and he swallowed them, hoping with all his might that this would hasten his death, something he never dreamed he could desire so much.

Some time later – it could have been hours, days, or weeks – he heard a conversation between a SIM doctor and Ramfis Trujillo:

“Impossible to keep him alive any longer, General.”

“How much time does he have?” It was Ramfis, no doubt about it.

“A few hours, perhaps a day if I double the serum …”

“Move away, then. I won’t let him die a natural death. Stand behind me, you don’t want any cartridges to hit you.”

With great joy, General José René Román felt the final burst of gunfire.

Mario Vargas Llosa won the 2010 Nobel Prize for Literature. In an Economist piece on his career:

While Mr Vargas Llosa’s prose lacks the poetic intensity of Colombia’s Gabriel García Márquez, who won the prize in 1982, he more than makes up for this by his greater intellectual depth, subtlety and authorial rigour.

I agree, and The Feast of the Goat is an example of intellectual depth that Garcia Marquez doesn’t match.

Here’s his summary of how Trujillo ruled the Dominican Republic:

Only the very rich can allow themselves the luxury of not working for Trujillo … Not them either. The rich too, if they wanted to go on being rich, had to ally themselves with the Chief, sell him part of their businesses or buy part of his, and contribute in this way to his greatness and power. With half-closed eyes, lulled by the gentle sound of the sea, he thought of what a perverse system Trujillo created, one in which all Dominicans sooner or later took part as accomplices, a system which only exiles (not always) and the dead could escape. In this country, in one way or another, everyone had been, was, or would be part of the regime.

Trujillo pulled a vocation for masochism up from the bottom of your souls, that you were people who needed to be spat on and mistreated and debased in order to be fulfilled.

Buy The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa



  1. Damn, that torture scene made my stomach turn. Is it a close-to-reality depiction or completely fictional? And it even that’s watered down?!

    Thanks for posting the review Colin. It is a story that needs to be told and gain more awareness. Though I have a great historical knowledge I have never heard about this dictatorship that was supported by the US.

    Those brothers sounds like usay and qusay.


  2. JR – Yes, Ramfis was a piece of shit. I actually left out another major story from him, because it would’ve taken over the article. Here it is:

    So his old man withdraws him from the military school to avoid the embarrassment of his being expelled. But of course nothing like that is reported in the Dominican media. Instead, the Jefe has his return portrayed as a completion of his studies with a big, formal ceremony with all the bells and whistles at the pier to receive the new military expert Ramfis on his boat from Miami. All the courtesans, government leaders, and fans are there to watch. When the boat arrives Ramfis and his entourage are completely fucked-up drunk from an orgy with a bunch of random chicks on the yacht. He can’t stand up or do any of the ceremonial procedures, his clothes are covered in puke. The Jefe had to cancel the event and send everybody home.

    Dasch – I read somewhere that Vargas Llosa did in fact water the torture scenes down. The sons are like Uday and Qusay, but probably not as bad – those 2 were horrible. Ever seen House of Saddam – HBO series? Crazy. Also a lot of similar – probably worse – torture descriptions from Saddam’s Iraq as well as Assad’s Syria – just last year.


  3. I spent many holidays in the DR and never knew the history of the country. I just knew that it was cheap, had beautiful women who loved gringoes, and was safe. I stopped going there about 8 years ago. This country has a very sad history. When i first visited the people were incredible. I seriously thought about moving there.


  4. This is one of my favourite novels. When writing historical novels Vargas Llosa really investigates deeply, this is a surreal story. I love the rythm of his writing and the way the story of the goat’s hunting is told from the point of view of different characters.


  5. Damn the dude would literally just bang any woman he wanted to. That´s boss status right there.

    “I have been a well-loved man. A man who has held in his arms the most beautiful women in this country. They have given me the energy to go on. Without them, I never could have done what I did … Do you know which was the best of all the cunts I fucked? … Froilán’s wife!”

    Don Froilán had smiled heroically, laughed, celebrated with the others the Chief’s witticism.


  6. Where can I find the entire torture report of Pupo Roman. That coward deserved what he got and I would really like to read all of what they did to that Piece of Shit.


  7. Very nice post, Colin! Well written as the book appears to be and I will seek it out.

    @ Jose B Cruz – you’re an asshole!


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